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Pirates Late rally thwarts Boston on turn-back-the-clock night

Friday, June 06, 2003

By Robert Dvorchak, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Call it old school or old-fashioned. With the clock turned back to 1903 to recall the first World Series, the Pirates scratched out a run in their final at-bat and were supercharged by an appreciative audience that had nothing to be entertained by except baseball.

Pirates outfielder Kenny Lofton rounds third base after hitting a home run in the fourth inning. (Keith Srakococ, Associated Press)

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"How about our fans? They really picked us up tonight," Manager Lloyd McClendon said after a 5-4 win that enabled the Pirates to avoid being swept by the Red Sox. "Coming off the field, I threw my hands up, pointed at them and waved my hat. You talk about a lift. They had me tingling in the dugout. No frills, no productions, no organ, nothing on the scoreboard, just good old-fashioned baseball and good old-fashioned Pittsburgh fans."

The 33,372 in attendance were on their feet at the end when Mike Williams struck out Johnny Damon looking for his 16th save. With the count full, Williams took a moment to soak in what he called an awesome atmosphere before throwing the final pitch.

"They were screaming in the ninth. I just wanted to step off and listen to it. In fact, I did pause a little bit on the mound, to take it in a little bit. It was a lot fun," Williams said.

Both teams wore throwback uniforms, complete with collars and baggy sleeves, to recall the only other time they had met in a series. To establish an atmosphere that would have surrounded a game played a century ago, the Pirates dispensed with such modern contrivances as video features, the pierogie races, the hot dog shoot, the T-shirt toss and the music that blares between innings. They even managed to stage a 1903-style rally.

With one out in the eighth, Jeff Reboulet squibbed a swinging bunt to the third-base side of the mound for an infield hit. Hoping to move the runner, McClendon ordered a hit-and-run play with pinch-hitter Abraham Nunez at the plate. Although the pitch was too tough to handle, Reboulet stole his first base in three years.

Nunez, who had been 0 for 14 as a pinch-hitter, slapped a single to center. Reboulet started to run, then held up, to make sure the ball got through. It gave the Pirates runners at first and third, and with Kenny Lofton up, the Red Sox went to left-handed reliever Alan Embree.

Lofton, who had earlier launched a solo home run, drove a ball to deep center for a sacrifice fly that easily scored the deciding run.

More Pirates Coverage:

Pirates Report: 6/6/03

A day-by-day look at the 1903 Pirates, who won the National League pennant and played in the first World Series.

June 6, 1903
The Pirates (30-17) established a record with their fifth consecutive shutout after defeating the Boston Beaneaters, 4-0, at Exposition Park. The game was called in the sixth inning because of rain.

It was the Pirates' 10 win in the past 12 games but they remained in third place in the National League behind New York (29-13) and Chicago (30-14).

The Pirates only had four hits compared to seven for Boston (17-23). Honus Wagner had two of the four hits, including a triple, and scored twice.

-- By Randy Stoernell


"We scrapped one out. Found a way to win," Reboulet said.

"That's the best atmosphere when you have a crowd like that. They were cheering from the first inning to the end of the game. That pumps you up," Nunez said. "I wasn't thinking about oh for whatever when I was up there. I was thinking this could be the time I break through. I had to get him over some way, some how."

The two teams went back and forth from the start. The Pirates finally got a lead in the series and took advantage of several breaks in the first inning. It has been the norm for the Pirates to jump out on top early when Jeff Suppan is pitching. In nine of his 12 starts, Suppan has gotten the lead in the first inning.

An error and a hit batsman set up Brian Giles, who had 13 RBIs in his previous 16 games. He singled to right off Red Sox starter John Burkett for a 1-0 lead.

Aramis Ramirez barely legged out a relay throw to avoid a double play before Randall Simon delivered a single to right for the second run of the inning. Only one of the runs was earned.

The Pirates loaded the bases twice in the third inning but got only one run out of it. With one out, Ramirez bounced a single through the middle to extend his career-high hitting streak to 18 games. Simon singled to right, and Reggie Sanders lined a single to left to load the bases.

Wilson lofted a ball to right, and Ramirez, not known for his speed, took off for home. Trot Nixon's throw bounced in ahead of the runner, but Jason Varitek applied his tag around the shoulders of Ramirez, whose foot already had slid across the plate.

The Red Sox, the best hitting team in the majors, struck back in the fourth. After the first 10 batters were retired in order, Todd Walker extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a one-out single to right for Boston's first hit. Manny Ramirez ripped Suppan's next pitch into the left-field bleachers just inside the foul pole for a two-run homer.

After Lofton's home run, the Red Sox countered in the fifth by scoring a run when Johnny Damon grounded into a fielder's choice.

Suppan, lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth, also was energized by the crowd.

"It's nice when they're not cheering because there's a Noise Meter up there. The fans really rallied," he said.

The Red Sox tied the score, 4-4, in the seventh off Scott Sauerbeck when Nixon homered on a 3-1 pitch to lead off the inning. Sauerbeck has given up five home runs, three of them to left-handers, in 32 appearances this season. He allowed four home runs in 78 outings last season.

Brian Boehringer got the final two outs in the eighth, including a strikeout of Ramirez, to set the stage for the winning rally and the save by Williams.

Kevin Young had irked many for his thoughts on home-field advantage. Afterward, he gave the crowd its due.

"Fans create energy. They were a big part of the victory," he said.

Robert Dvorchak can be reached at bdvorchak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1959.

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